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Black-Eyed Susan Vines

A couple of years ago I had the chance to interview George Ball Jr., owner of the Burpee Seed Company, and during the interview I mentioned to him that I was a big fan of vines. I recounted how I used to love the vine selections offered by the Martha Stewart seed line, which Burpee packaged, because it had some really nice vines. Mr. Ball mentioned that because of the vertical gardening trend Burpee would start to carry a bigger selection of vines. So far I haven’t seen seed companies step up and push vines for vertical gardeners, but if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow vine for your mailbox, fence, living wall--or maybe a privacy screen--there’s no better vine than Thunbergia alata. The ornamental garden vines in this genus are better known by their common name, Black-eyed Susan vine.

 Go beyond morning glories and runner beans and grow these six beautiful Black-eyed Susan vine varieties.

Thunbergia alata 'Susie White Black Eye'

All of the black-eyed Susan vines pictured in this post were photographed at the gardens of the Ball Horticultural Company a couple of years ago during a tour. Ball's website lists this white blooming Black-eyed Susan vine variety as 'Susie White Black Eye.' Some seed companies list the white Black-eyed Susan as Thunbergia alata 'Alba' and some seed companies, like Park Seeds, list it as 'White-eyed Susie.'

This is my favorite of all the Black-eyed Susan vines. The characteristic 'black eye' of the flower is surrounded by five white petals. Ball also produced a variety named 'Susie White Clear' that doesn't have the dark center.

Thunbergia alata 'Charles Star'

I can't find a listing for 'Charles Star' on the Ball website, but that's what this Black-eyed Susan vine variety was labeled as in the display garden. I don't know if you can make it out, but the orange color of the flower's petals gets darker as it gets closer to the dark eye of the flower.

Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Lemon Star'

This Black-eyed Susan vine variety is much brighter than 'Charles Star' and the common orange Black-eyed Susan vine variety you'll find at the garden center. 'Sunny Lemon Star' seems to have narrower flower petals, and the yellow is a cheery hue.

Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Susy New Orange'

The blooms of 'Sunny Susy New Orange' look like pumpkins. Another Black-eyed Susan vine variety I can't find on the Ball website, but they list two orange varieties; 'Sunny Orange Wonder' and 'Susie Organe Black Eye.'

Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Susy Red Orange'

'Sunny Susy Red Orange' Black-eyed Susan vine is different than the other Black-eyed Susan vines because the black eye is a really deep red, where in other varieties is closer to a pure black color. The flowers of these vines are a dark peach color that accentuates the veins each petals.

Thunbergia alata 'Arizona Dark Red'

The blooms of the 'Arizona Dark Red' Black-eyed Susan vines are a deep red and orange color. The colors of this vine are evocative of the Arizona landscape.

Thunbergia alata is native to Eastern Africa, and has naturalized in other parts of the world. In warmer climates, Black-eyed Susan vines are herbaceous perennials, but in my area they are annuals and die off when winter arrives.

If you’re looking for a vine for hanging baskets, window box planters, or something to quickly climb up a structure like fence or trellis; give Black-eyed Susan vines a try. They're easy-to-grow, do well in dry gardens, sprout easily from seeds, and bloom early. The trumpet-shaped blooms are great for long-tongued pollinators like humming birds and butterflies.

How to Save Black-eyed Susan Vine Seeds

It’s easy to collect and save Black-eyed Susan vine seeds from your garden with a little planning. Do you grow Black-eyed Susan vines in your garden? I've mentioned before that I've seen Black-eyed Susan vines listed in old houseplants books. Ever grown this plant indoors?


  1. I love the name "White Eyed Susan" for a flower that clearly has a BLACK eye and white petals! May try on on my back fence this year. Thanks for the info.

  2. Cool! I have an old seed package from when I was going to grow some back when I lived in Florida but they didn't germinate. Will have to buy some new ones soon. We have grown its cousin, Thunbergia grandiflora which is a fun variety too.

  3. This is so great that you did this post! I had no idea there were so many varieties! I just got a small piece of homemade paper with Black Eyed Susan seeds embedded in it. I have sprouted out about 6 plants in a coffee can so far in my kitchen window (from the homemade paper). Am excited to see if I can get some good strong plants going. If I ever get a bloom, I will post on my blog! Actually tomorrow I will plan to get photos of what I have thus far onto my blog. Thanks for the great info!!!

  4. Haha I was only aware of 'Black eyed Susans' as a band not a plant. I like the yellow ones the best.

  5. Here in Malaysia I've only come across the yellow variety. They can be found growing wild. The Arizona Dark Red' Black-eyed Susan is a real beauty.

  6. I've had mixed luck growing these vines . Love the variety with the white flowers.

  7. I like the idea of trying this as a houseplant, thanks! :)

  8. Lovely as well as colourful flowers. The flowers look daisy-like at a distance, but they are actually tubular. Five over-lapping petals surround a brownish-purple center tube, masquerading as a center disk. Look at the flower from the side and you see how the center funnels downward.

    Flowers are most commonly found in orange, pale yellow or white, but new cultivars are being created with a wider color palette.

  9. How pretty. I've never grown them. For some reason I had always overlooked them. I like the white and the last two colors pictured.

  10. I have purchased them pre-started and I love them, especially the white or cream (but those reds are great, too), but have never tried them from seed! Mind you, I'm a bit of a laze when it comes to seed starting. Maybe if they're as easy as you say, I should give them a try! Will have to check the Ball website for Canadian availability. Yellows are the most common pre-started ones here.

  11. Black-eyed Susan is a bit tender over here In York UK although I have managed it for a few months in summer July-Sept in a sheltered outdoor spot. It makes a nice conservatory plant and I fancy trying the fantastic White-eyed Susan if I can get some seed in UK

  12. Never tried growing these. Hmm...looks like a trip to the nursery is in the future.

  13. Anonymous1:03 AM

    I've grown these for thirty years and it just so happened that I originally received these as a housewarming gift in a kit with ceramic pot, mini tools, seeds, and potting soil. The instructions were for a beautiful flowering houseplant. It was, and so the love affair began. I grow them outdoors, to give them room to climb. Super easy to germinate, indoors or directly sown. For some reason, the indoor ones need to be covered. Save those plastic produce containers with lid, those work like a charm
    (love those large spinach/lettuce ones)and do your part to recycle :) My fave? I'll have to say the white/black -- very art deco !

  14. Anonymous10:15 PM

    I have grown the yellow every year from seeds I gathered from my first plant. I bought white Susie plant this year and loved them but the seeds don't seem to produce like the yellow. How do I get the seeds from my plants. The pods seem to shrivel up and not form seeds. Any ideas?

  15. glad to have fown you here, i lOVE vines, and for the first time this year i have grown Black eyed susans Thunbergie rudbeckie sunset shades but my favorite would be the Arizona Red for next year. i will save my seeds just the way you have shown here, thanks for posting. Gardening is wonderful



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